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B.C. needs vacancy control, tenants' group says following alarming evictions study

A file photo shows Vancouver's skyline before the sun fully sets. (CTV/ Pete Cline) A file photo shows Vancouver's skyline before the sun fully sets. (CTV/ Pete Cline)
Vancouver -

A tenants' advocacy group is calling on the B.C. government to implement a system of vacancy control after Metro Vancouver was labelled the eviction capital of Canada.

An estimated 10.6 per cent of the region's renters were forced from their homes over a five-year period ending in 2018, according to a new study out of the University of British Columbia – and the Vancouver Tenants Union suggested the rent likely "jumped dramatically" after each eviction.

"As long as the financial incentive to evict remains, tenants won't have reprieve from landlords taking away their homes for profit," VTU organizer Sydney Ball said in a news release.

By comparison, the study found the Toronto area's eviction rate to be 5.8 per cent over the same period – approximately half of Metro Vancouver's.

To decrease the number of evictions, the Vancouver Tenants Union is pushing for B.C. to enact vacancy control, a system that ties rent increases to individual units instead of tenants. The group argues that doing so would remove a major incentive for evictions and keep rent more affordable.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's annual rental market survey, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Metro Vancouver has increased more than 30 per cent over the last five years.

Data from the website indicates the average price of a one-bedroom in the City of Vancouver was $1,855 per month in December – after dipping 4.4 per cent during the pandemic.

The Vancouver Tenants Union also wants more data collection and transparency from the provincial government.

The group said B.C. doesn't track total evictions, unlike Ontario, and called on the government to release all the data it does keep on eviction numbers, while "preserving tenants' privacy."

"We can't regulate something we don't keep track of," spokesperson Mazdak Gharibnavaz said in a statement. "The lack of information is a feature and not a bug of our system due to intense landlord lobbying, and it's shameful that we've had to rely on a series of byzantine processes to get very important information."

CTV News reached out to David Eby, B.C.'s minister responsible for housing, but was told he was unavailable Thursday. The ministry issued an email statement noting a number of protections for renters the NDP has implemented since taking power in 2017, including increased penalties for landlords who evict tenants under false pretenses.

Back in July, B.C. also introduced a new requirement for landlords to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch before evicting a renter to use the property themselves.

"We know tenants (between 2013 and 2018) were working under the old government's rules; facing issues like renovictions, demovictions, short notice to vacate and little recourse when landlords were acting in bad faith," a spokesperson said in an email.

"Since then, our government has made significant changes to residential tenancy laws to protect renters from unlawful evictions."

The ministry did not respond to questions about the VTU's calls for increased transparency or vacancy control.

Back in 2019, the government also launched a Compliance and Enforcement Unit to investigate serious complaints against landlords and impose financial penalties, and had conducted 159 investigations as of July.

The ministry said only 15 of those investigations have resulted in a penalty, though 50 others were resolved through "an early intervention."


Correction: A previous version of this story reported that the UBC study estimated evictions over the past five years. The study estimated evictions for a five-year period ending in 2018. Top Stories

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